Hi from Rick: Toasting Italian Cooking
Eating in Florence with our tour groups and Italian friends, the conversation invariably turns to food — often with a dose of national pride mixed in. Not about to defend America in the battle of cuisines, I ask my Italian friend, Roberto, "What about French food?"
Roberto, peppering a puddle of olive oil on a small plate, responds, "With the French there is two things great: their wine and their art. Since the time of Napoleon, they think only of their wine and their art.
But the art in France is like the dust . . . it is everywhere. It is in their blood. They have good taste. Yes, they are boring — but they have good taste."
Dipping his bread into the oil like a paintbrush, Roberto adds, "Here in Italy, they drink our wine and say, 'Ah, this is good wine. The French wine is better, but this is good wine.'"
Tearing off a piece of bread and ramrodding it into my oil, he continues, "For me the French cheese is the Italian cheese with mold. If we have cheese that nobody buys, it gets moldy. After some days, it becomes perfect French cheese."
Raising my glass of wine, I offer a toast to Italian food. "To la cucina Italiana."
Roberto follows that, saying magnanimously, "To bacon and eggs!" We all agree that American breakfasts are unbeatable.
"Omelets, hashbrowns," Roberto reminisces, "on my last visit to New York, I gain four kilos in three weeks."
I think there's a little Roberto in all of us — where the food we enjoy in our travels becomes as memorable as the sights. Don't be surprised if your next trip to Europe is broadening in more ways than one.
In the meantime, we're serving up a tasty helping of destinations in this month's Travel News, from Britain's Cotswolds to the French Riviera to the hill towns of central Italy to Roberto's rant on lasagna.
Got a traveler or two on your holiday gift list? We're offering lots of special deals this month in our Travel Store: from 2005 guidebooks to our new TV series on DVD to lean-and-light travel bags.
All of us at Europe Through the Back Door wish you happy holidays...and happy travels in 2005!